Did you know that the United States alone accrues an average of 10 million domestic abuse victims each year? October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and your workplace can make an impact. Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. Although the topic may not be fun to talk or think about, it is extremely important. Statistics show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men will experience this type of violence at some point in their lives, and it is likely that someone in your workplace has either suffered or been directly affected by domestic violence.
There are a lot of telltale signs of domestic abuse, and identification can make a difference in the safety of not only the affected employee, but the entire workplace and its clients. Some signs include wearing clothing that is inappropriate for the season in order to conceal injuries, unexplained injuries and/or frequent medical complaints, minimization or denial of injuries or harassment, appearing fatigued, physically isolating oneself from others, increased absenteeism or reluctance to leave work, and possible disruptive visits from the domestic partner. This person may also be easily startled, exhibit fear, anxiety, or emotional distress, and be sensitive about speaking of their home life.
Domestic violence can have many impacts on your workplace. In fact, between 21 and 60 percent of victims of intimate partner abuse lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse. The employee’s productivity is likely to decline, he or she may fear job loss, and may have a lack of access to money causing increased stress. It’s also likely that there will be a lack of motivation and decreased morale for not only that individual, but entire teams.
The first step in being prepared to address domestic violence is to create a plan of action. The plan should include resources that can help your employees recognize the signs of domestic violence, instructions on who to go to when you feel uncomfortable having the conversation alone, and what shouldn’t be said to someone you suspect is being affected. Secondly, consider training your supervisors on how to recognize and address the signs of domestic violence so that they are more comfortable having conversations about it.
If you suspect someone in your workplace is experiencing domestic abuse, you should not ignore the signs, but it’s important to approach the employee in the right way. The conversation should take place in a private place and your voice and body language should stay calm. If the person denies the abuse or does not want to talk about it, you should respect their decision and end the conversation there. If they are open to the conversation, be sure to emphasize that you want to help. There are many resources available to help abuse victims and the employee should be guided to professional help. Additionally, there are accommodations you can make to help keep this employee safe, such as a flexible schedule, assigning someone to walk them to their car, and allowing them to seek help during the workday.